(This week’s race report includes a soundtrack, all for the sake of a terrible pun. I hope you enjoy it)
Valentines Day 2015 saw a small group of Haries take on something a bit more challenging than the usual cross country. We went out to the Pentlands to take part in one of the first proper hill races of the season, Carnethy 5 – so named because its course goes over 5 peaks, rather than the common misconception of 5 miles. Hill running can be brutally tough, and entering meant risking the well-being of our limbs and romantic evening plans. It was definitely worth it however!
With 2500 feet of ascent over a relatively short 9km course, the race was certainly challenging, yet the Haries faced up to it nicely. It began with a mad dash across a boggy field at the 2pm start gun, accompanied by bagpipes and plenty of cheering, as runners jostled for a good position before hitting the single track and thick heather of the first ascent, Scald Law. This is the highest hill in the Pentlands, and thus where most of the hard climbing took place. It was a long slog up to the peak, but we battled up through the steep, tough conditions underfoot. Fraser and Andy pushed ahead here, whilst John Yells, Matty Ral, Suthers, and myself followed fairly close behind, in a loose pack. Upon finally reaching the peak (I took 11 and a half minutes to travel a kilometer on this particularly tough stretch of the course), we were greeted by enthusiastic cheers from marshals Mook and Rachel, which was a small but welcoming comfort to our knackered calves.
From Scald Law the course followed a ridge along to South Black Hill, and on to the twin peaks of East and West Kip. This section was rather enjoyable, with some pleasant downhills and relatively brief uphill parts. However, even with 4 out of the 5 peaks out of the way, the race was far from over as we still had half the course to run. The route then headed down a long and tough descent, and it being on a camber only made things more difficult. It leveled out after a while though, as we ran down into the valley and things took a turn for the flat. I focused on trying catch up with John, and did make up some ground, but he stayed persistently ahead.
This respite didn’t last nearly as long as would have been welcome though – soon we hit the namesake of the race, Carnethy. Ascending from base to summit of this monster hill was unbearably tough. The climb was almost 2km long, and very steep in places. Very little running actually happened here, if I’m honest. I barely remember seeing Captain Jack, who was cheering near the top. It was a horrific ascent. After what seemed like an age and about 3 false peaks, the last summit finally came. With the end in sight, the pace of the race picked up significantly. This was probably the steepest part of the course as well as roughest underfoot, and running downhill was more a case of controlled falling. Soon enough though we were back into the boggy field, and across the line. It was here that Handsome Matthew made a last ditch effort to overtake me, and given a few more meters, probably would have.
In any case, our four counters all came in under the bench mark hour, and the rest weren’t far behind. Fraser was first Harie to finish, in a great time of 57:44 (it would have been Lawler, but mummy issues meant he was running in an AC vest. Still, 55:06 from young Andy is seriously impressive.) Next came John in 59:16, quickly followed by myself in 59:47 and then Matty Ral just 10 seconds later. This completed our Men’s team, putting us in a respectable 8th place. Matthew Sutherland followed next, in 1:00:19, and then came Captain Georgia, in an amazing time 1:00:43, making her 3rd women overall! Sophie Horrocks was next, and 6th women, in 1:03:17. Iwan and Sarah Douglas soon followed, in 1:07:58 and 1:08:14 respectively. Bryson brought up the rear in 1:09:07, and well into the top third of the 500 strong field.
Prize giving revealed the astounding: our women’s fantastic performances had earned them second place team! There was also a boxing glove thrown around, some great free beer to be drank, and a less great free school dinner of dubious origin. But we were very hungry we didn’t care. All in all a fantastic race from all the Haries! There was a great atmosphere throughout the day which meant that everyone had a great time. Even if our men didn’t win the sword (seriously, 1st Men’s team get a bloody huge claymore! See the photo of our winning 06/07 team with it).
Hill racing really is something special.